TomTom Android App Review

By | 2012-10-16

TomTom recently released a GPS navigation map app for the Android platform. It’s about time. I had a TomTom GPS app and blue tooth receiver on my Palm Treo years ago. Long before anyone dreamed up Android, yet they have dragged their feet on releasing an app for a phone since (as far as I know.) I can only presume it was to protect their dedicated device market. I can’t see the GPS stand-alone devices having anywhere near the market share they once did with the free phone turn-by-turn alternatives available from Google, Apple, Nokia and others.

I purchased the $60 TomTom map app for the North America region only cause I wanted a data free way of having turn-by-turn navigation while travelling outside of Canada, or when I have no cell coverage in Canada. My cell carrier is Fido (Rogers) so I have no roaming fees inside Canada, so using Google maps here shouldn’t be an issue except when outside of cell tower coverage, which can easily happen in outlying areas of Canada, even at the lake.

The download of the app is several meg. Then downloading the North America map was 20some megs and took some time even on WiFi. So leave your phone motionless while downloading, as an interruption will mean starting over, as it does not use any smart download system that can continue if disconnected. Yes, this did happen to me walking around my house and the phone changing routers upstairs to downstairs.

Starting TomTom on Android requires some patience, as it takes a good half minute to start the app and load the map, this is on a Dual-core 1 GHz phone. This slow start was an issue back on my Palm Treo and is also the case on starting a dedicated TomTom device. No instant on for TomTom on any device I’ve used.

Features and usage are similar to the stand-a-lone TomTom’s, accept for some noticeable bugs and short comings I realized early on. Most TomTom devices have the ability to alert you when you exceed the speed limit, as does this app. It does not work for me on my device, assuming it works at all in the app. I contacted TomTom tech support and they replied with the usual call centre nonsense of uninstalling and reinstalling, or doing a factory reset of the phone. Both are incredibly ridiculous solutions for a working app. But this is the only feature that isn’t working so far, and audio like voice does work, so neither solution is what I consider intelligent. I’d like to know if this feature works for anyone else.

The other shortcoming is the lack of audio alerts when you are close to a Point of Interest (POI.) This feature is standard on all TomTom devices I’ve used and owned. I contacted TomTom tech support and the feature doesn’t exist, which is why I couldn’t find it, and their reply was that it “may” be implemented some day. Another typical call centre non-committal response.

Both tech support email complaints took several days to get answered, and both were escalated to a “supervisor”, and that’s the replies I received after escalating. My experience with TomTom tech support over the years has been similar, several days at least for a response, then some generic non-helpful (though polite) reply.

As for the general use of turn-by-turn navigation, it works as expected, and no better or worse than a regular TomTom device, short of the very disappointing lack of audio alerts for driving speed and POI’s. So far the Android app on my phone has found enough satellites to work fairly quickly, something that has always been an issue on all stand-a-lone TomTom devices I’ve used. But that will be due to the hardware being used, and not the software being better on Android than their own devices.

I’m glad I have a cellular data free means of navigation now, however I was very much looking forward to the two features that are lacking, that would have helped with locating red light cameras and staying within the speed limits. So the bottom line is that TomTom on Android is a very basic turn-by-turn navigation map with few frills, in fact fewer frills than I got on a TomTom device I purchased about 10 years ago.

Rating: 7/10

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